Feminist Bookstore In Other Words Needs Your Help


Can you remember the first time you visited a feminist bookstore? As a 16-year-old I cut class and drove through the scary streets of Los Angeles to find Sisterhood Books. I remember standing in wonder before the community board with all of its events and handwritten postings; there were more opportunities than I could believe. Next, I proceeded to “hide” for two hours in the corner with the lesbian novels, soaking up all the stories written for women, by women, until I was sure they would ask me to leave—but they never did. That was over 15 years ago, and since then the Internet and the changing times have forced most feminist bookstores out of business, but there are a few still fighting the good fight. Portland’s In Other Words is one of them.

In Other Words is so much more than a bookstore, it is also a dedicated community space that serves the public in a multitude of ways. “We roll our bookshelves aside several times a week to make room for author readings, discussion groups, a music series, poetry performances and more,” says store manager Rebecca Luxenberg. They also offer a community resource center with computer access for the public and free wi-fi. Some of the regular free or sliding scale classes and events include, “homorobics” a queer-friendly exercise class, feminist film nights, erotic open-mic nights, yoga classes, writing workshops and domestic violence awareness classes. Of course, there are books relevant to all these amazing activities and the store boasts a huge feminist theory section rounded out by several more general sections. Luxenberg does her best to stock books by women and with a truly radical slant.

Unfortunately, the recent economic downturn has put In Other Words on the verge of extinction. The board of directors, small staff and an army of over 30 volunteers are struggling to raise several thousand dollars by the end of the year in order to keep the doors open. In an open letter to the community, they are calling on feminists, book lovers and everyone who cares about supporting women’s spaces to help them raise funds by making tax-deductable donations, shopping at the store, getting involved as a volunteer or taking part in one of their fund-raising efforts.

Luxenberg has been amazed and heartened by the response not only in Portland, but also nationwide. “People have been pouring through our doors, making donations in the store and also buying a lot of stuff, they are prioritizing their holiday shopping here right now,” she says. Still, the bookstore is far short of its goals and is calling for continued support.

“For everyone who doesn’t have their own feminist bookstore, this is something to rally around,” Luxenberg says. In Other Words has outlined several steps they will be taking to promote the long-term sustainability and financial health of the bookstore on their website. They have been in business for 15 years and they plan to serve their community for many years to come.

How you can help:

  • Donate in person, by mail or directly though their secure website. Donations from $5 on up are greatly appreciated.
  • Do all your literary holiday shopping at In Other Words. They can order and ship any title and offer great recommendations. “If you are going to buy a book, buy it from us instead of Amazon. That would be incredibly helpful,” said Luxenberg.
  • Throw a fund-raising house party in your hometown (perhaps a famous feminist costume party?). Contact the bookstore for fun ideas and printed store literature.
  • How about a feminist pilgrimage to Portland. They will be very happy to see you at In Other Words.
  • If you live in the Portland area attend the fund raising events, volunteer and get involved in other store activities. Find out more at inotherwords.org.
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